“First and foremost, we’ve always been farmers. And will always be.”
Aaron was talking about his role in the family wine business, having been up all night harvesting, but talking a mile a minute with energy and passion. We continued our conversation over a cup of coffee in the LangeTwins tasting room, him describing the Lodi appellation (just south of Sacramento), the changing face of winemaking and grape growing, and sustainability. He paused and asked if I minded hopping into his big pickup truck (covered in a little dust and mud, but growing up driving down gravel roads with farming friends, I was used to it.) to go and actually see what their definition of sustainability was, beyond what words could describe. We took a short drive to the end of the road where his dad Randy and mother Charlene live (right beside brother Brad, hence the name Lange Twins Family Winery), on the very first vineyard that was planted in 1916.
We got out and walked along the road, and through the field a canopy of tall oaks over our heads, which he explained was the work of him and his brother, their chore as boys, clipping and transplanting seedlings so they would line the banks of the California Delta River. We came upon 100 year old zinfandel vine piles, part of LangeTwins 20-acre habitat restoration project, kept there specifically for quail and pheasant habitat. Soon we were standing underneath the “owl house”, where a few old characters live, keeping away varmints that would otherwise damage the vines. And then there was the bat cave, (both of these looking similar to deerstands) for the same purpose, so that pesticides don’t have to be used.
At this point I realized my denim dress and sandals might not have been quite the right attire, but I didn’t mind one bit.
Walking through rows of Montepulciano, plucking a few grapes from the strong, weathered vines as the dew was still glistening, we continued talking about root stalks, viticulture, weather patterns, soil, and the harvest. What my mind had etched out as a day about winemaking soon turned into a realization that this kind of dedication to not just the wine, but the habitat, was so much more.
Great wine starts in the vineyard, with the hands that grow it, the soil that feeds it, the air that surrounds it. The LangeTwins are a generational family farm at the core, with 2,375 acres certified sustainable under Lodi Rules in 2015. In 2010, after solely farming to supply other wineries with some of the best grapes grown in California (because of the really cool nights, hot days, and Delta River breezes that yields Maritime influence), they decided to start making their own wine too.
After really gaining an understanding of their philosophy with Aaron, we headed back to meet my friend Emma (mind you, this was the first time we’d met in person after being friends for over 2 years online, hah!) to explore the wines and taste. We shared sips of old vine Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, as we stood along the 22-foot California redwood slabs with winemaker David, and talked about the synergy of his work, the classical style he embraces.
David talked about expressing the varietal and appalachia through the wine, instead of formulating to trends or popular styles. Like their Chardonnay (the varietal I always pass on because all I taste is butter and oak)…. it was nothing like what I was expecting. Tropical fruit, apples, a soft finish, and super subtle woodsy notes. This classical style was even evident in their Caricature brand (super fun label and those made for everyday celebrations) that we tasted through during lunch, the Cabernet Sauvignon being my favorite.
The day concluded with an epic California sunset, wine in the vineyard, my girlfriends, and barn cats (pretty much my dream combination). We enjoyed a fabulous dinner made by Randy’s wife Charlene, straight from the garden, and a long talk about what it meant to continue the family legacy, and to see their boys carrying it on.
As I was sitting there listening to the passion and enthusiasm in both of their voices, I thought about how many of us find it important to know the story behind our food, but what about what’s in our glass? Even for myself, I think it has some catching up to do, and why this experience is one I was eager to share with you. Knowing the story helps bridge the connection, imparting something more than “just a bottle of wine,” when in all honesty, we could choose one of the other 400 bottles staring at us at the wine shop.
Every time we eat or drink, there was someone, somewhere, whose livelihood was built on it. And there’s something so special about knowing that story is part of your table too. xo
If you live in Minnesota, specially the Minneapolis area, you can find LangeTwins wine at several different wine shops, including France 44. They also have distribution throughout the entire US, so be sure to keep an eye out for them. As a side note, their wine averages $15-$25 a bottle which is an incredible value for the quality (my favorite being the Gewurtzraminer and Cabernet), as well as their Caricature line which is all red wines, averaging $10-$15. I am very grateful to be partnering with LangeTwins and sharing their story, and although this is sponsored, all opinions and experiences are my own.